THE PUBLIC inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, that claimed 72 lives in June 2017, entered its second phase yesterday to examine how the tower block came to be coated in deadly flammable materials – materials that turned the block into an incendiary fireball.
In an opening statement, Stephanie Barwise QC, representing some survivors and relatives of those who perished in the blaze, told the inquiry there had been a ‘prolonged period of concealment by government which should properly be regarded as one of the major scandals of our time’.
She said: ‘The Grenfell disaster is a predictable, yet unintended, consequence of the combination of the laudable desire to reduce carbon emissions, coupled with an unbridled passion for deregulation, in particular a desire to deregulate and boost the housing construction industry.
‘Government’s dependency on that industry resulted in government becoming the junior partner in the relationship, thereby permitting the industry’s exploitation of the regulations.’
Barwise added: ‘Government’s response, on realising the extent of the problem, was to react by concealment, instead of candour.’
In fact, the inquiry is treading over very old ground as the culpability of the companies in ignoring tests that showed just how deadly were the cladding materials used, and indeed suppressing these results, has long been public knowledge along with the complicity of the Tory government in the Grenfell tragedy.
In November 2017, an investigation by Sky news revealed that an insurance company had posted a video on YouTube showing plastic insulation panels burning much more intensely in real life than the companies claimed in their own ‘official tests’.
They were immediately threatened with legal action and forced to remove any reference to the manufacturer of the panel they tested.
Just months before the Grenfell fire, Tory ministers boasted about how previous fire regulations in housing had been torn up by the Cameron government, and the plastics insulation industry had actually been brought in to draft the very rules on fitting its own products on millions of buildings, including Grenfell, around the country. None of this has caused any of the companies involved to slink off out of the public view in disgrace.
Kingspan, one of the insulation firms whose products were used in the cladding, has embarked on a high-profile sponsorship deal with the Mercedes Formula One team. Their logo was on the car driven to victory by Lewis Hamilton at Sunday’s Grand Prix sparking a storm of anger.
Despite the public outrage at the partnership deal, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, in response to a letter from the survivors’ group Grenfell United, while acknowledging the ‘additional hurt this announcement has caused’ refused to cancel the deal.
The inquiry had already heard evidence in March that Kingspan were aware their product was inflammable. Now they are claiming it was used without their knowledge.
Tory Communities Secretary Michael Gove, attempting to distance the Tories from Kingspan, wrote to Mercedes threatening to change the rules on advertising in sporting events to ensure that any advert ‘reflects the public interest’ and urged Mercedes to reverse the deal.
No one will be fooled by Gove’s pathetic attempt to portray the Tories as having any concern for the public interest. Grenfell Tower was a death trap for workers and their families, cladded in the most flammable materials by companies that knew full well how dangerous they were but didn’t care about anything except profit.
These companies were aided and abetted by a Tory government with an ‘unbridled passion for deregulation’ to ensure that these profits were maximised to the full despite putting lives at risk.
All these companies, along with the Tories and the Kensington and Chelsea Council, played a role in the lead-up to the Grenfell Tower fire and bear the responsibility for the deaths of 72 people.
It does not take another phase of the inquiry to prove to the working class that they are all responsible and that the Grenfell Tower tragedy can only achieve justice when they are arrested, put on trial and jailed for this crime.